February 16, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Virginia's “Let Doctors Decide” Medical Cannabis Bill Expanded By Governor Northam
Richmond, Virginia: Yesterday, the Virginia Senate Education and Health Committee voted unanimously to pass HB 1251 amended to include a new emergency enactment clause requested by Governor Ralph Northam. The Joint Commission on Healthcare bill, patroned by Delegate Ben Cline R-24, to allow Virginia doctors to recommend the use of medical cannabis oils for the treatment of any diagnosed condition or disease, will go into effect upon his signature.
Gov. Northam, a Democrat and physician, has been outspoken in his support for the “Let Doctors Decide” measure and has now taken the compassionate step to ensure that the law would immediately expand legal protections upon enactment for patients who are seeking treatment.
Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML and a two-time cancer survivor herself, believes these bills will give countless suffering Virginians a chance to safely heal — right here at home in the Commonwealth.
"All Virginians deserve access to safe, regulated medical cannabis,” said Pedini. “These bills will ensure that Virginians have the ability to stay here at home with their families, with their support networks and not be forced to move to another state in the middle of a healthcare crisis to seek medical cannabis therapies.”
“CBD/THC-A oil has been proven to effectively and safely help patients address symptoms of intractable epilepsy and manage pain,” said Delegate Cline, chief patron of the House bill. “By expanding the ability to recommend CBD/THC-A oil, we are giving doctors the freedom to make a recommendation based on the most up to date research and data, just as they do for any other medication they prescribe."
The companion bill to HB 1251 in the Senate, SB 726, introduced by Senator Siobhan Dunnavant R-12, has unanimously passed the Senate and now waits for consideration by the House.
“I finally decided that I needed to advocate for the physicians being the decision makers,” said Senator Dunnavant. “We, physicians, are the ones that follow the literature and know which treatments are best for different conditions. The literature on medical cannabis is going to be evolving rapidly now, and because of this, it is not a decision that should be in the hands of the legislature. Instead, it should be with physicians.”
Regular Virginians suffering from a variety of conditions, including cancer, Crohn’s disease, and PTSD, have lobbied passionately for this reform.
“Honestly, until this week, I’ve always thought of it helping my patients that have breast cancer, especially the young ones that have children and have so many things to get done but feel so terrible as they go through chemotherapy,” said Senator Dunnavant, a practicing physician. “After this week, I won't be able to forget Tamra Netzel, the patient and my constituent with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) that testified on behalf of this bill in committee. My niece also has MS and having the opportunity to help others in similar situations means a lot to me."
As the Commonwealth struggles with a worsening opioid crisis, this legislation offers a glimmer of hope.
“Medical cannabis laws have demonstrated significant impact on the opiate crisis,” said Pedini. “States with such laws see on average a 25% reduction in opioid fatalities. We are losing three Virginians every day to opioid overdose. It’s time to give doctors in the Commonwealth the ability to utilize this powerful tool in mitigating addiction and overdose.”
Enactment of this historic legislation would make Virginia the first state with a hyper-restrictive program to adopt such a broad expansion.
Contact: Jenn Michelle Pedini